SINCE the November 2017 coup, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) appears to be holding unfettered power over the government or at the very least, sees itself as partners in the administration and has very little regard for so-called civil or human rights, if they interfere with its control of resources and levers of power.
The military involvement in propping this “new dispensation” of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, or second republic as the office bearers are fond of saying, was apparent during the Zanu PF primary elections, when its helicopters were used to transport ballot papers to areas like Zvishavane and Gokwe.
It became more pronounced when the army moved in to quell the August 1 post-elections demonstrations, killing six civilians and injuring many more, drawing outrage and international condemnation.
Mnangagwa promised an investigation into this crass killing of civilians and violence, which had preceded the military response.
Despite members of the army being caught live on camera, indiscriminately and mercilessly beating up civilians as well as shooting at fleeing protesters and passers-by, to-date not a single soldier has been arrested, court martialled or discharged from the army. The Commission of Inquiry chaired by former South African President Kgalema Mothlanthe has been and gone, with recommendations that have gone unheeded. In all likelihood, that report is gathering dust somewhere, where it was shelved as soon as it was released.
Just when everyone thought that the post-election shootings may have been accidental or unsanctioned actions by someone in the hierarchy who did not get the memo about what this second republic was about; the army ruthlessly and brutally put down demonstrations against fuel price increases, which turned violent last month. This time 17 civilians were
killed according to human rights groups, while nearly 100 had bullet wounds, hundreds were injured and over 1 000 were arrested.
Allegations of rape abound, most being blamed on members of the military.
Again, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces was strong in words, promising investigations and that perpetrators would be arrested. The violence was very unZimbabwean, he said.
Of course, nothing has happened.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has come out to say that Zimbabwe is now a military State, that it holds all the cards and could be holding the President hostage.
Can President Mnangagwa act against those whom he owe his ascendency to power? Can he break the chains of his past and lead the country into a new era, where he is beholden to the electorate and not the gun as his predecessor was?
Is the President in control of his security forces and are they acting under his instructions or it is him under their instruction? This has to be answered so that the nation knows who to blame for all this mess. In this case, both the military and the President are culpable.